Zsu Dever on Bowl Meals: "When we tuck into a bowl meal, we have a few reasonable expectations."
"First, it should be uniquely satisfying. Second, it should be a complete meal, requiring nothing supplemental beyond, perhaps, an optional piece of crusty bread."
"In addition, the food should reflect a balance of flavors and textures. It should be easy to eat, seldom requiring more than a fork or spoon. And the bowl should be portable, allowing us to enjoy our meal anywhere, making for a casual mealtime experience."
That's how our whole family eats. We mostly eat our bowls at the table so we can easily read and eat, but sometimes we perch in front of the TV or computer, spoon in one hand and remote or mouse in the other.
I'll bet most of you do the same. For one thing, a plant based diet lends itself to bowl meals. And another thing - life is just easier that way.
Vegan Bowls validates and enables an ideal eating-from-bowls lifestyle by giving us a complete bowl food support system.
The recipes are quick - 30 minutes on average, the most time most of us want to spend making a meal.
Why the recipes are so quick: "Special care was taken in composing these dishes, and the directions are precisely crafted to seamlessly flow from one component to the next", with Quick Tips and suggestions for each recipe.
She starts off with a no-nonsense chapter packed with everything we need to know to create delicious nutritious bowls, from the components of a bowl recipe, through getting started, time-saving tips and handy kitchen equipment.
Zsu recommends using convenient store-bought ingredients where they are called for in the bowl recipes.
Chapter 2 covers just-in-case basics, supplemental recipes in case you need them or want to make them from scratch - it's cheaper and often better to do that, but more time consuming.
Those basic recipes include vegetable broth, seitan, chapatis, corn tortilla, brown rice and quinoa. I'd add home-cooked beans and lentils to the list - to freeze in meal-size containers.
Chapter 10, Build Your Own Bowls, exponentially expands the usefulness of Vegan Bowls, with a condensed list of basic guidelines to building your own bowls.
A handy chart provides three regional food groups with compatible sub-groups of recipes. A clear and detailed ingredients glossary completes the picture.
In between, we've got grain bowls, sauteed bowls, pasta bowls, grilled bowls, salad bowls, soup bowls and breakfast bowls. A Life in Bowls!
One thing I should make clear about Vegan Bowls is that although the recipes are well-organized, clear and easy, it is not a one-pot cookbook. Personally I find that too limiting and even downright unrealistic - most of the time.
Another thing I must say about Vegan Bowls is that if you limit your cooking to recipes with 6 ingredients or less, you won't find much of that in this cookbook.
For me, lots of ingredients in recipes is great, since most of them will be flavorings, which all recipes must have to be tasty.
I tested the Spinach Salad Bowl on page 106, because it was one of the official sample recipes, and I had all the ingredients except the fennel (sad face).
I didn't want to run to the store just for a fennel bulb which might or might not be there, so I left it out, but later I thought that shaved kohlrabi or jicama would work too.
I made the Spinach Salad Bowl with warm quinoa, so the spinach wilted a bit, and we ate the salad warm.
Delicious! Plus quick & easy to make.
The spinach bowl was easy for me because the ingredients were all familiar.
I'm looking forward to stretching my bowl repertoire with the risotto and polenta bowls, lentil picadillo, or one of the breakfast bowls - maybe the figgy porridge bowl with polenta, or the congee bowl with tempeh and scallions.
They all sound fantastic! And this is making me really hungry - and inspired.
Think I'll whip up a bowl for lunch, using what I've got on hand. It'll be something soupy with brown rice (already cooked), red lentils (from the freezer), zucchini, carrots, cabbage and peas.
I highly recommend the Vegan Bowls cookbook to inspire YOUR bowl-food lifestyle!